If you’ve ever driven north on Interstate 5 and passed through the section with industrial feedlots for cattle, you know the smell. It’s unforgettable. Besides the obvious odor, though, there are serious environmental, animal welfare and human health issues associated with these large-scale meat production facilities.
Those issues are similar to environmental concerns about offshore aquaculture – or factory fish farms in the ocean.
In Ry Rivard’s Jan. 19 story, “State Probing Experimental Hubbs Fish Breeding Program That’s Spawned Deformities, Mixed Results,” he called attention to the prevalence of disease and deformity in hatchery-raised white seabass in a smaller project run by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Rivard shared internal email correspondence from a California Department of Fish and Wildlife pathologist, who indicated that mismanagement and negligence are at least partly to blame in the state-funded, $28 million research project.
Yet, Hubbs-SeaWorld is the same organization that’s partnering with a private equity firm to build a massive commercial offshore finfish farm in federal waters about four miles off Ocean Beach. It could produce yearly 11 million pounds of yellowtail jack, white seabass and striped bass – plus the associated fecal, feed, antibiotics waste, predator and wildlife interruptions and commercial ship traffic that accompanies factory fish farms.
Though Rivard’s story investigates a much smaller-scale fish-breeding Hubbs-SeaWorld operation, the nature of the findings of disease and deformity brings to light issues with management, oversight and the lack of comprehensive federal regulations of industrial fish production. Coupled with the abundance of scientific literature documenting the significant negative environmental impacts of offshore fish farms, these new findings add considerable weight to existing concerns.
The proposed factory fish farm will use a series of open-water cages tethered to the ocean floor. In this type of offshore aquaculture, caged fish escaping is common and expected. When escaped fish are diseased, as we’ve seen in Hubbs-SeaWorld’s white seabass hatchery, those diseases and other parasites could potentially spread to, and threaten, wild fish populations.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
A lawyer, like Matt O'Malley, is not restricted in his statements by truth, rationality or basic science. This freedom allows him to make statements like " Unfortunately, the existing level of environmental oversight for these permits is woefully inadequate" and "The project presents a number of other serious, long-term risks, including the regular discharge of concentrated fish feces, feed and antibiotics, which can create imbalances and algae blooms and lead to low-oxygen dead-zones" that are more than just a little misleading.
If he had a clue or cared about the scientific reality or the truth of the proposed site, he would have observed that the nutrients, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, etc. flowing into the local ocean from the Point Loma sewerage discharges do not create algae blooms, dead-zones etc. and these flows and amounts are a 100 times the amounts from a fish farm. As a lawyer, I presume he actually knows that if an input 100 times larger has no significant impact, 1% of that amount either increasing or decreasing won't make a difference either.
It appears easy for him to ignore reality when he can use his PR spin for fundraising.
Just because they are three miles out doesn't let them do whatever they want. U.S. Maritime Limits go out to 12 miles for territorial protection, which covers sanitary protection. I try to only eat wild fish, and would certainly avoid those.